Monday, December 31, 2007

List of Eco-Friendly Suppliers/Products

More and more promotional product suppliers are adding eco-friendly products to their mix. Sometimes it will be a single item or a line of products, but rarely do you find a supplier that exclusively carries products that fall into this category. Some suppliers are also changing their printing process to one that is less damaging to the environment.

Here is a list of links to suppliers' that have taken efforts to be part of the "Green Team". When thinking about your next promotion, consider going green.

This list is in no particular order. Come back often, as the list will continually be updated as I find more Eco-Friendly promotional products.

  • Aakron Line carries a variety of products made from Safe Plastic such as mugs, cups, bottles, key fobs, flyers, and license plate frames.
  • Bag Makers now carries an eco-friendly line of brown kraft shopping bags and plastic die cut bags.
  • The Book Company has 40 titles that are all about making a greener world.
  • Drum-Line offers journals and scratch pads made from 100% post consumer paper.
  • Earth Positive Apparel to combat Climate Change. Organic cotton, ethically made T-shirts, Polo shirts and hooded sweatshirts,but crucially, manufactured solely using renewable green energy generated from wind and solar power.
  • Ecorite has a line of bags and aprons made from 100% post consumer recycled plastic bottles. They also have a line of totes made from certified organic cotton. In addition, they give 1% of all sales to WWF.
  • Ecoshpere is a line of self-sufficient ecosystems. The glass orbs contain micro-organisms, red shrimp and algae the thrive given just a bit of light.
  • Gary Line carries many promotional products made from recycled materials. They have Yo-Yos, ice scrapers, bag clips, and clipboards to name a few.
  • Gemline has introduced a line of earth-friendly products made from 100% certified organic cotton fabric and 51% PET recycled fabrics. The bags are complemented by an option to decorate with a non-phthalate, non-PVC ink.
  • GreatStuff! carries both recycled plastic and corn resin products. The lines included items such as pet dishes, food containers, buckets, piggy banks, and bookmarks.
  • Groline is all about the environment. What is more eco-friendly than giving a live tree to plant?
  • Karlen Promotional Products offers recycled lace lanyards.
  • Leeds has come out with their EcoSmart line. The line contains stylish bags and padfolios made from recycled materials.
  • Live Promotions, Inc. carries live greetings of all sorts; trees, flowers, wreaths, etc.
  • Norwood carries a calendar called GoingreenTM. It's printed on recycled paper, and featurs 12 green living tips.
  • Plants With a Message deliver potted plants directly to your customer.
  • Prime Line's green line is called Eco-Responsible™. They carry everything from pens and bags to flashlights and staplers.
  • QuickPoint carries NatureAd products made from corn plastic. They have everything from screwdrivers to rulers to letter openers.
  • SuperMatic Line has two pens that reduce the traditional plastic pen's impact on the environment.
  • Tranter Graphics, Inc. is the source for biodegradable & compostable disposable paper plates and plastic cups. They call this line Harvestware.

Want to Pick the Right Premium? Here is an 18-Point Checklist:

1. Define your advertising premium.
2. Consider how you will select your giveaway item.
3. Plan who should receive them.
4. Decide what promotional message/slogan you want to convey.
5. Decide how your premium item should tie-in to your marketing theme.
6. Plan how your premium item will compliment your exhibiting goals.
7. Allocate a realistic budget to achieve your objectives.
8. Consider having your giveaway be original and relate to your business.
9. Make sure that it is appealing and appropriate for your target audience.
10. Make it a useful item if you want people to keep and use it.
11. Consider what benefits your visitors get from this gift.
12. Gauge the item’s appeal by asking if you would like to receive it and what you would do with it.
13. Make sure that the item projects the company image you want your target audience to receive.
14. Make a plan for distributing your item.
15. Decide who will receive the item – every visitor or only a select group.
16. Decide what visitors need to do qualify to receive a gift item.
17. Plan how you will inform your target audience about your giveaway item.
18. Organize a system to measure the effectiveness of your premium.

Source: Sarah Friedmann, The Trade Show Coach

On the Money

So often I am asked, "What should I give away at my trade show booth?". This article from the December 2007 issue of Successful Promotions magazine sums up what I usually tell my clients.

On the Money

By Sheila Berninger

When it comes to generating attendance at a trade show booth or meeting, a powerful premium simply can’t be beat. Here’s how clever marketers used promotional products to attract thousands of potential customers.

James Finch had never been so happy to see it rain. As a member of Beck Media and Marketing, he had gone to great lengths to make sure his client SilkRoad technology stood out at HR Tech held in Chicago in October. This included handing out hundreds of travel-sized umbrellas branded with the name of SilkRoad’s new software application called “Red Carpet.”

The premium was part of the “Premier Party Invitations” that were sent out to all attendees inviting them to its marquee event at the Navy Pier. Just like a celebrity might receive, Beck Media created a semi-translucent swag bag (handy for getting through airport security) that it called the “Red Carpet Survival Kit.” It included logoed lip balm, breath freshener, a Netflix trial membership and, of course, the umbrellas.

Taking the Hollywood theme a step further, the day of the event SilkRoad branded red carpets were unfurled throughout the concourse. “There was a logo every 15 feet,” says Finch.

But the whole time he was thinking, “please let it rain.”

Soon it began to sprinkle raindrops. No monsoon had struck that would ruin the event, however there was just enough precipitation that everyone opened their red umbrellas. “Everyone was asking where they could get their umbrella,” he says. “Between the carpets and the umbrellas, we branded the entire conference.”

The event was such a success, Finch says, that his competitors called the show’s organizers to find it if they could do the same thing the following year. But, alas Beck Media had already locked in the event (carpets and umbrellas and all) for the next five years.

When it comes to generating attendance at a trade show, event or meeting, choosing the right promotional product can be the catalyst. “Picking something that attracts attention can be the difference between success and failure,” says Mark Yokoyama, director of marketing for He says the stakes are especially high if you have a booth located in an undesirable location at a trade show.

Drew Neisser, president of
Renegade Marketing, an event marketing firm in New York says, “Premiums can be so boring, but we actually get excited about picking them. To do it right, it needs to be part of a bigger idea. You want to connect them to the promise of the business and you want it to be fun, exciting and compelling.”

For SilkRoad, it was about making human resources executives feel like celebrities for a night. Syngenta, an agricultural company that produces herbicides and fungicides used to grow crops, tried something a little different. Playing off of the popularity of the many home improvement shows on cable, it went with a construction theme at its booth at a recent event.

Prior to the show, direct mail pieces were sent out stating that Syngenta will help attendees “build” their crops the right way. Those who stopped by the booth were greeted by salespeople in hardhats and tool belts. Each attendee received a logoed measuring tape. However, higher level executives and top customers received tool kits which included a hammer, screwdriver and other hardware.

The Tradeshow Coach Susan Friedmann says companies should always “consider having a special gift just for your VIP customers and prospects. Use this as an incentive for them to come visit the booth.”

No matter what items you select, “you always need to tie it back to the brand or the theme,” says Cindy Treadway, senior account manager for Exhibit Resources, who helped put together the Syngenta booth. “There are so many things to choose from, but the ones that work reinforce the brand either by their color, shape or what they say. There needs to be a planning process and the idea has to be carried out through everything.”

Friedmann agrees. “To be totally effective, premiums need to be integrated into your overall exhibit marketing objectives. You need to be crystal clear about the role you want them to play.”

Playing Games with Attendees
In Asia, Dao, the main character within the PC game KartRider, is about as recognizable to kids as Mickey Mouse or Mario. In the United States, however, Dao is a stranger in a strange land. To help introduce the character and the game, which launched online in the U.S. in the fall, Nexon America held an event at DigitalLife in New York in September.

It literally filled a 150-seat theater with the promise of a free KartRider T-shirt in exchange for listening to a presentation from its executives. Afterwards, Nexon ended up with a two-hour-long line to try the game. “At first we were just handing shirts out to anyone who came to the booth,” says Min Kim, director of operations for Nexon, “but then we started making them demo the game first. One woman saw the line and asked what everyone was waiting for. When she saw the T-shirts, she literally squealed and ran to the back of the line. Dao is a very recognizable character that people love.”

The shirts proved so popular that the company ran out during the first two days of the four-day event. Booth visitors settled instead for one of 7,000 logoed bags. When all was said and done, crowned KartRider the game of the show.

“Bribery works,” says Nancy A. Shenker, principal of theONswitch, a marketing consultancy based in Westchester, N.Y. “Ultimately, you want something that will make them interested in your product or service. You want to incentivize them to spend a little time at the booth, engage in a demonstration or talk to a sales rep.”

She warns that just offering something cheap to the masses will attract the “tchotchke zombies who are there for the sole purpose of grabbing free stuff.” She says if a company decides to offer something for everyone, use candy or pencils. “Pencils are actually somewhat of a novelty because everyone gives away pens.”

Smaller is also often better because of shipping logistics, says Dale Kirby, director of marketing for, a promotional products distributor. “The main thing you need to think of is: How easy is it to transport the product? All you have to do is a couple of trade shows to realize that if you have 36 mugs in a box, and you’re giving out 500 a day – that’s a lot of boxes. You arrive at the booth and there’s a pyramid of boxes. For a one-man booth, that’s too much to handle. Pick things that are small that have value.”

Friedmann also stresses a promotional product should be business specific to keep away the freebie hunter. “Product samples, special reports, white papers and checklists work particularly well. They are not as sexy and fun, but only your target audience will be interested in them and that’s what you want. This way you’re not just giving them something that will end up in Johnny’s toy box or given to Aunt Sally or Uncle Fred.”

For Kreative Vistas, it was comic strips. The multimedia film company, which specializes in creating animation films in the life science and software industry, is fully aware as to how dry the BIOMEDevice conference in San Jose can be. So this year it touted its “Animate, Entertain, Simply” message by showing off its films on a 67" plasma TV, and handing out comic strips which “were the last thing anyone would expect in the middle of so many biomedical device companies,” says Valli Bindana, president, creative director for Kreative Vistas. “Our products are about using multimedia, so we didn’t want to hand out brochures like everyone else. Biomedical is very technical stuff. We’re about applying multimedia to simplify complex ideas.”

We All Scream for Ice Cream
The International Builders Show held in Atlanta in February is a high-profile event chocked full of big corporations. It’s not uncommon for some to be raffling off a pick-up truck or to hire Danika Patrick or Jesse James from the show Monster Garage to hang around the booth to draw a crowd.

While Wayne-Dalton, one of the world’s leading garage door, opener and home control manufacturer, can certainly afford to go that route, it annually opts not to. Instead, it leverages one of its original taglines “Say goodbye to the plain vanilla garage door” by giving away different flavored ice creams.

Although it doesn’t use the tagline anymore, Bill Earnest, director of marketing and product management for Wayne-Dalton says it has become a bit of a legend as they are known as “the ice cream folks” at the show. “It’s a hot show so ice cream goes well,” he says.

Visitors to the booth also get yellow show bags that include pens, foam hats and picture cubes that unfold to reveal photos of the many different types of Wayne-Dalton garage doors. “Our goal is to have something extra that ties into our core message,” says Earnest. “That other stuff [celebrities and truck raffles] just clogs up your booth so customers can’t see your product.”

While Wayne-Dalton reps serve the ice cream, they start a dialogue. “We ask, ‘How big of a builder are you,’ ‘what state are you from’…The ice cream attracts visitors but doesn’t take away from the product.”

Yokoyama says when selecting your giveaway, “you have to know what your goal is. If it is a complicated software demonstration, having a pen for people to grab in exchange for a business card isn’t that effective, you need more of an incentive.”

Of course, there is something to be said for high-end prizes and gifts. Just ask any of the 1,000 people who attended an Open from American Express in Chicago in October. Once it was over, they were instructed to reach under their seats to find their thank-you. To their delight, each found a brand new iPhone loaded up with relevant content, music and videos.

Christine O’Neil, the director of print/premium production for Momentum Worldwide, which created the event, says clients “challenge us to develop something new that will ‘stick;’ something that people will either take away physically and re-use or an experience through a premium that will make the event unforgettable.

“In today’s premium industry, products are constantly being developed to one up the next, and it is imperative for our team to stay on top of these alternate ways to reach and influence the target and in doing so, deliver for our clients,” says O’Neil. “It is a challenge that we openly welcome.”

Shenker says spending more on items can work so long as it aligns with the company’s strategy. “I might raffle off something of value like an iPod. Sure, it might cost me $80, but I would look at it from the perspective of this is a way to build my database.”

Still Jerome Bobis says some are shying away from expensive ad specialties altogether. “Associations might offer a pen to encourage pre-registration, but they are slowly getting away from that. They understand it is about better location and educational opportunities so they are cutting back on the use of promotional products.”

But, for SilkRoad, the branded items were the secret weapon behind a successful trade show – that, and of course, the rain. “Water, location, product name, it all came together to make a great impact,” says Finch. “You couldn’t have asked for a better thing than rain.” ●

Friday, October 26, 2007

Holiday Cards That Bloom

Each year we send out holiday greetings and wishes for a happy New Year to our family, friends, customers, etc. (Well at least we have the intention to.) It's a lovely tradition. Who doesn't like to see the holiday pictures of their nephews? Or read about Aunt Tina's summer adventure in Africa? We proudly display our cherished greetings around the house or office. Some even have a special card tree or wreath.

My question is, how does this effect the environment? An estimated 2 billion cards are sent each year. That's a lot of trees! How many of those cards are made from post-consumer recycled paper? And after the New Year when cleaning up all the decorations, where do those cards go? I doubt many make into the recycling bin.

I found a company that has a solution to the environmental impact all of our good wishes are causing. The Symphony Line offers Environmental gifts, cards, mailers and boxes that are handmade from recycled paper and embedded with seeds. After the card is received it can be planted to grow flowers, vegetables, herbs and trees.

This holiday season send your clients, family and friends your Winter greetings on a card that they can start an herb garden with. You can even send them an ornament that will grow into a tree or wrap your holiday gifts in boxes that bloom into flowers. They will remember your thoughtfulness for months or years to come as the gift continues to grow.

Click here to view the Symphony Line

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Power of the Sun in Your Hand

This is part of an article from the September 2007 issue of Promotional Marketing magazine.

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be much that is revolutionary about a solar cell phone charger, but oh how looks can be deceiving. Made by Better Energy Systems of Berkeley, CA, the Solio, a universal, portable hybrid charger, is truly a step (or two) above. With its unique three-blade design and recycled plastic shell, the Solio eliminates the need for "old-fashioned" wall charges by collecting and storing solar energy. Then, once the item is imprinted with a company's logo, end-users simply can pug in a wide array of portable devices such as cell phones, MP3 players, digital cameras and PDAs. For those in gloomier climates such as Seattle, have no fear--Solio also comes with a wall charger in case the sun doesn't shine for some time.

While it provides a cutting-edge electronic device (and turns other electronic items carbon-negative), the true benefit of the Solio may be the effect it has on its users. The company doesn't want simply to provide portable electricity: It wants to change the way people think about the environment. "It's putting renewable energy in peoples' hands in a very personal, renewable way," says Mike Levin, business development manager at Better Energy System. "It's one thing to put solar panels on your roof. It's another thing to put them in you hand where you use them every single day." Furthermore, by making solar technology part of the everyday experience, Solio is seeing its users make environmental steps in other areas. "Our research has found that our users are making other environmentally conscious decisions." added Levin. "We want to break down the barriers of environmental responsibility so people don't have to make these huge leaps in terms of behavior."

In the end though, the makers of Solio know it isn't enough to provide a product both perfect for imprinting and environmentally flashy with its green-ness; they need to provide a device that performs well and stands the test of time. Which they seem to have accomplished.

Does a Business Card Have to be a Business Card?

I was reading an article called "How'd they do that?" (similar concept to the TV show "Made in America"), on the making of chocolate business cards and it got me thinking, Does a business card have to be a business card?

Chocolate business cards receive a bigger "WOW" from the recipient than a traditional card stock card, but probably not the most practical method of giving your contact information. I am guessing many chocolate cards are consumed prior to being entered into a CRM program or database. But still, what a unique way to stand out from the crowd.

I started looking at other "non-traditional business cards". Some of the ideas were not all that unique. We've all seen business card magnets, tip calculators, letter openers and calendars. But then there were some interesting products that got the gears turning.
  • Lenticular cards - great for contrasting old, boring, plain with new, exciting, vibrant.
  • Emery board cards - If you are a salon, spa or just cater toward women, this is a great way to stay in front of your target audience. (At least whenever she chips a nail.)
  • Plantable Cards - These are business cards that are made from recycled paper with seeds embedded in them. When you plant and water them, they grow into a flower. What a great way to show you are committed to the environment.
  • Mints in Business Card size case - These would be especially appreciated at networking events.
  • Pre-Paid Cards - This is by far my favorite! Pre-Paid cards can be used for music or ring tone downloads, movie tickets, phone time or photo prints. The great thing about these cards is that for the recipient to receive their gift they have to go to a website branded with your company and information. You can have them fill out a brief survey, or view a product prior to completing the transaction. Wouldn't it be great if after a trade show, your booth visitors not only had your product reinforced in their mind, but did the work of entering their information into your database? To learn more about pre-paid cards, click here.
These were just a few of the products I found. There were so many more, I cant list them all. I'd love to hear what the most unique business card you've received or used was.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How do you carry all that stuff?

An Expo Tote or Conference Messenger bag is essential for every meeting goer. Where else would you put all the handouts, brochures, stress balls, pens, etc. that you pick up as you travel from booth to booth?

Gemline has come out with a line of eco-friendly bags. The Eco-Choice line has several different styles of bags made from either recycled or organic materials.

The Recycled Essential Portfolio (above) is made from 51% recycled fabric. This line also has an Organic Economy Tote made from 100% organic cotton. But my favorite bag in the Eco-Choice line is the Organic Spa Tote (right). It too is made from 100% organic cotton with a front straw panel and coconut button closure provide added appeal.

View the entire Eco-Choice Line

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A gift that says "You Mean the World to Me!"

Having a hard time expressing to your clients or employees how much they mean to you? Give them the world - at least a miniature world.

EcoSpheres are a miniature worlds that fit in the palm of your hand. They contain marine shrimp, algae and seawater. It sustains itself by producing and recycling everything it needs to survive. "It's the perfect balance of life and art, technology and nature; a living treasure and an incredible learning tool.", says Michel Harmony, owner of EcoSphere Associates, Inc.

The EcoSphere is a living example of cooperative relationships. What better way to say to someone, what we do together is important? It can be used to say thank you for a job well done or thank you for your business.

The EcoSphere is a techie gift, earthy gift, and high-end premium gift. It also works well as an award. It's perfect for someone who has everything and yet appreciates something unusual.

For more information about the EcoSphere, visit their website,

Friday, September 7, 2007

Dos and Don'ts of Corporate Gift Giving

Gift Giving in a business environment isn't quite the same as giving a gift to your best friend. Special considerations need to be made when selecting the appropriate gift for an employee or client.

This is a list of some of the dos and don'ts of corporate gift giving.

  • DO give gifts of high quality.
  • DON'T give gifts that appear cheap of that are in poor taste.
  • DO give gifts that are stylish, yet classic and relevant.
  • DON'T wait until the last minute and make a "desperate" purchase.
  • DO make sure your gift is elegantly packaged.
  • DO add a personal touch, such as a hand written note, to show some thought was put into the gift.
  • DON'T buy something you would like, focus on what they would like.
  • DO try to be culturally sensitive.
  • DON'T give gifts that imply self-improvement in needed.
  • DO give a different gift each year.
  • DO consult with a colleague or friend when you're not sure what would be appropriate for the individual.
To logo or not to logo? That is the question. It really depends on the gift and the reason for giving it. If you are giving a gift to thank someone for a referral or their time, then most often the answer is yes. You want them to remember you and your service. However, if you are giving an upscale gift for a special event or the holidays, then maybe not. I think the impact of Mont Blanc pen, Coach bag or Bulova watch will be a lasting memory in the mind of the recipient.

The Kaeser & Blair Corporate Gift site has gifts that are appropriate for just about every business gift giving occasion.

The Industry is Going Green

The September edition of Advantages magazine, a trade publication for the promotional products industry, is all about how the industry is following the trend of going "GREEN".

Many suppliers are adding quality organic and recycled products to their lines. They are implementing eco-friendly printing processes such as digital printing that uses water-based inks and recycling the cartridges they come in. I'm very grateful that the suppliers in my industry are stepping up to the plate and doing their part to help our environment.

Now it's up to me and you to take advantage of this opportunity.

I promise to do the research. I will continue to learn about organic products and their contribution to the environment. I will learn which suppliers are truly committed to being environmental responsible. I will offer eco-friendly products to my customers as an alternative to the conventional products that may be damaging to the environment.

But it's really up to you to make the difference. Next time you need a product to carry your message to your target audience, choose to go "GREEN". Use a biodegradable pen made from plant fibers, not oil; a journal made from recycled materials.; a t-shirt made from organically grown cotton; a tote made from bamboo or straw.

Our combined efforts to be environmentally conscious and to do the right thing will pay off for years to come. As the demand for eco-friendly products rises more suppliers in this industry and others will take on an environmentally responsible policy.

Let's prove Kermit the Frog wrong! It is easy being GREEN!


Welcome to my blog!

I started this blog because I'm always learning about new products, thinking about creative ways to use promotional products, thinking about the impact promotional products have on the environment, and I wanted an outlet to share my knowledge and thoughts with the general public. There just isn't enough room in my monthly newsletter!

Feedback and thoughts on anything and everything I write about are highly encouraged. I love to hear other people's perspective.

I hope you enjoy!